The New L 00 k
An edited version of his letter was to be published in To Thailand With Love, ThingsAsian Press, 2013. But at the last moment, the Editor made a different decision.
02 August 2008
My Dear My0pic, Hyper0pic, and Fellow 20/20 Friends,
My classmate Jack Calabro had a neat trick.
My Taft High School classmate, and later, my University of Illinois graduate school classmate, Jack protected his mother from unnecessary worry.
Jack's mother wanted to know when we were leaving Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and when we would be arriving in New York. We would be driving all night across Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with a slight dip into West Virginia. As dawn arrived, we would steer into the sunrise across Pennsylvania to New Jersey and then north to New York. That's a long drive, even on Interstate highways. A mother could worry a lot.
So what was the trick? Jack knew when we were leaving and could estimate when we would arrive. So, the "departure" time he gave his mother was actually our arrival time! She was so surprised!
Here's my contribution to the concept of worry avoidance:
I am pleased to report to you that I have undergone and recovered from two lens replacement surgeries.
Two years ago Pichaya (Lek), my optometrist friend, made me a pair of excellent eyeglasses with high index, progressive, photo-chromic lenses.
Recently, I felt I needed something stronger so I went back to Lek who works at the Top Charoen Optical Company. She made me a new pair but I was not happy. With a few thousand branches in Thailand, Top Charoen guarantees the work, so Lek recalculated another set of lenses. Still no luck. I tried again at another branch but the technicians just couldn't work it out.
I have been struggling. I even fell down a couple of times; my depth perception was faltering and I was having trouble negotiating steps.
I walked up the street to the Bumrungrad Hospital for an eye examination. I had a consultation with an ophthalmologist. Her diagnosis: cataracts in both eyes with a recommendation for lens replacement. I decided to get a second opinion. But where?
Fortunately, my friend Mark suggested Rutnin Eye Hospital in Bangkok where his wife had surgery a year ago.
On Monday morning, 14 July, I walked into the Rutnin Eye Hospital without an appointment. Mai pen rai - no problem. By noon they had completed a thorough examination using an assortment of impressive electronic equipment. Same diagnosis. Cataracts.
Dr. Kalayanee Rojanaporn explained the schedule:
First, on Saturday, 19 July, I would take a complete pre-surgical medical checkup. The first surgery, on my left eye, would be performed on the following Thursday, 24 July. If all went well, the second surgery would be the very next day, 25 July. Both surgeries are an outpatient procedure.
I decided to go for it at Rutnin.
In a modern seven story building with thirty-five ophthalmologists and I don't know how many staff, Rutnin Eye Hospital is an extraordinary medical facility. You can read all about it on their website.* Even though they treat hundreds of patients every day, the operation is so efficient, so professional. The attractive, smiling staff provides friendly, thoughtful and skilled five-star service.
Dr. Kalayanee is a thorough and gracious woman. She used charts, diagrams and her desktop computer to explain the procedure. The surgery is called Phacoemulsification:
"Phacoemulsification is the latest and the most popular technique for removing cataracts using ultrasound energy. The surgeon makes a very small incision about 3 mm long between the cornea and the white of the eye. Then she inserts a probe to deliver the ultrasound which emulsifies the cataract. The emulsified lens is aspirated out of the eye, leaving a thin membrane that will support the placement of the intraocular lens implant. The substitute lens is folded and inserted through the 3 mm incision."
"There is no need for sutures because the incision is very small. Patients can resume their normal lifestyle and see clearly the next day."
The surgery itself takes only about twenty minutes!
The new lenses would be calibrated according to my particular needs. I explained to Dr. Kalayanee that I do a lot of photography, a lot of computer work, a lot of reading and occasional piano practice. We decided that the left lens would be my long distance lens and my right lens would be for close work. Nothing can be perfect, so if I wanted good distance vision I would need to compromise a little on the near vision. I still might need reading glasses.
I reported on Saturday for the medical check-up and tests. They took my vial signs, did an EKG, and I contributed a little blood. I had another complete optical examination, actually several exams on different machines. With each new measurement, my anxiety level started to rise; my patience was almost on empty. At the last exam, the nurse kept pressing an instrument against my eyeball. I freaked-out. You ever have people poking around your eyes all day? At our consultation, I told Dr. Kalayanee that before the surgery, in addition to any local anesthesia, somebody better give me a wallop of a sedative. She agreed.
On Thursday I arrived for the surgery and changed into a surgical shirt. The nurses directed me to a very broad and comfortable leather reclining chair where they administered a series of eye drops and pills. Also, "Water? Tea?" "Mr. Jan, you like foot massage while you wait for surgery?"
The foot massage and the sedative worked. I was wheeled into the operating room and I don't remember anything. I was wheeled out. My friend David showed up. After a proper interval, we went out for dinner.
The next day, Friday, Dr Kalayanee was satisfied with the first surgery so she repeated the procedure on my right eye. Except, she was concerned about the heavy sedative. She needs me to be awake and responsive. So this time, I was conscious during the surgery. For about twenty minutes there was a bright light in my right eye, but there was no other discomfort. Back at the recovery area I had coffee and cake. And another foot massage.
The first post surgical check up was on Saturday, 26 July. Dr. Kalayanee prescribed a series of eye drops and lotions to be applied several times a day for four weeks.
The doorman at the Rutnin Eye Hospital saluted me as I walked out of the lobby and into the post-surgical ultra-bright sunlight. At a Top Charoen branch nearby, I chose a really cool pair of Italian sunglasses. At Robinson's Department Store, I found a pair of Compact, Twist, Italian Design reading glasses that fold up into a small narrow case.
I had one more check-up today, Saturday, 2 August.
Here are the results of the lens replacements:
For the first time since I am ten years old, I need no eyeglasses. No eyeglasses! No spectacles! No contact lenses! No bi-focals! No progressives! No nothing!
I can read everything including building names and billboards off in the distance, street signs, store signs, even the small print on the shop windows across the road. It's as if a mist has evaporated and now the world is clear, utterly clear, sharp and in focus. It's like I'm wearing binoculars.
The computer screen is clear. No glasses necessary.
The sheet music on the piano is clear. No progressives necessary.
I can watch a movie on television from across the room, and at the end I can read the credits.
In strong natural sunlight I can read a book. Indoors, I need the reading glasses for very small print or a newspaper. But there are times when I can read everything without the reading glasses.
When I wake up in the morning my hand reaches out as I grope for my glasses on the night table. I wonder how long it will take me to break free from that automatic reflex. I touch the bridge of my nose to adjust... and there's nothing there.
At my recent appointment I asked the Rutnin staff about donating all my eye glasses to a local charity.
And before I left her office this morning, I volunteered, "Thank you, Dr. Kalayanee, thank you. You are a miracle worker."
My friends, I know that like Jack's mother, you might worry about me from time to time. After all, I am alone and on the other side of the world. Let me assure you that I have good friends, transportation is efficient, the streets are safe, day and night. And who doesn't love Thai food?
I do take all the normal travel precautions, except when I hop on the back of a motorbike taxi and let the driver weave in and out of a downtown traffic jam. But I do wear a helmet sometimes.
Most important of all, just up the street is a dry cleaners. Under three bucks for a pair of slacks. They're always ready the next day. Just part of the service.
Finally, the medical, surgical and dental care in Bangkok is world renowned and world class. Where else can I just show up and see a highly qualified, experienced, medical specialist on the same day without an appointment? Tell me, where else can I enjoy a professional foot massage at a commodious and comfortable surgical waiting room? Just part of the service.
Here's L00kin' at you,
Mr. Jan Robert
In the Ray-Bans
PS If you missed reading about my adventures in knee surgery at Bangkok 's Bumrungrad International Hospital two years ago, please see my website:
"Quotations form Bumrungrad:" https://www.travelwithjan.com/travel-letters/bangkok-quotes-bumrungrad-hospital
* Rutnin Eye Hospital : https://www.rutnin.com/en/home/